J.J. Watt’s dominant showing not enough in Cardinals’ loss to Broncos

Dec 18, 2022, 7:42 PM | Updated: Dec 19, 2022, 1:22 am
Arizona Cardinals defensive end J.J. Watt (99) celebrates after a teammate sacked New England Patri...

Arizona Cardinals defensive end J.J. Watt (99) celebrates after a teammate sacked New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones during the first half of an NFL football game, Monday, Dec. 12, 2022, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Up against Denver Broncos backup quarterback Brett Rypien, the Arizona Cardinals pass rush went to work in a hurry on Sunday.

Totaling six sacks and seven QB hits in the first half alone, Arizona’s pass rush kept a Denver offense coming off its best output of the season in check for a good part of the Cardinals’ eventual 24-15 loss to the Broncos on Sunday.

Headlining the Cardinals’ sack party at Mile High Stadium was none other than J.J. Watt, who recorded three sacks in the first two quarters. Already pacing the team entering the contest, Watt now sits at 9.5 sacks on the year. The lineman also added three QB hits, three tackles for loss, one pass defensed and a forced fumble.

Watt has had a knack for stuffing the stat sheet against Denver. Entering play on Sunday, Watt had recorded 3.5 sacks, five tackles for loss and eight QB hits in three career games against the Broncos.

The QB takedowns also padded the lineman’s pockets, and gave his brother T.J. Watt a nod in the process.

Per ESPN’s Field Yates, Watt earned $500,000 for surpassing seven sacks, another $200,000 for exceeding eight and $200,000 more for passing nine.

Kicking things off on Sunday was rookie outside linebacker Myjai Sanders, who continues to make his presence felt in the back half of the season with added playing time. He needed less than four minutes to make an impact, getting to Rypien to the ground with 11:10 to play in the first quarter.

Not too long after Sanders, Watt notched sack No. 1 with 6:36 before Trysten Hill got in on the festivities two plays later. That marked Hill’s first sack as a Cardinal since joining the team in Week 10.

Watt responded with his second of the half with 10:02 left to go in the second quarter.

And after registering just 1.5 sacks in 13 games played, outside linebacker Markus Golden notched his first full one since Week 9 before the two-minute warning.

Then it was Watt once again, not only registering his third sack of the game, but also stripping Rypien with 1:01 left to play in the half. Sanders was right there to recover the rock.

Arizona turned the strip-sack into points, closing out the half with a Matt Prater 50-yard field goal.

The trend of Arizona defenders consistently getting to the QB, however, wouldn’t last in the second half.

After recording six sacks in the first half, the Cardinals tallied just one more sack in the matchup, courtesy of Jonathan Ledbetter.

And with the Cardinals offense doing next to nothing in terms of sustaining drives, totaling four three-and-outs across Arizona’s final five possessions of the matchup, the visitors were left spinning their wheels.

It didn’t help matters that backup Colt McCoy, who was playing in place of the injured Kyler Murray, went down with a concussion early on in the third quarter, making way for third-string QB Trace McSorley.

Outside of the team’s lone touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, Arizona’s offense looked out of rhythm for most of the afternoon.

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